Showing posts from August, 2021

Seeing a man about a saga

  I needed someone to speak to about sagas. I found a lecturer in Icelandic Literature, Thorsteinn.    His office was on the top floor of the old building of the University of Iceland. Rather unsettlingly, this reminded me a little of my trip to Berlin to research my 1930s novel: it had a touch of the Nazi Gothic about it. Thorsteinn’s office was small and academic, with the exception of an unexplained Barbie doll on the top shelf. Nothing in Iceland is ever completely serious. There was a view over Reykjavík City Airport to Thingholt and the Hallgrímskirkja. Just in front of the university is a rather elegant statue of an early Icelandic academic, Saemundur the Wise , and a seal. Like many future Icelanders, Saemundur studied abroad, at the Sorbonne in Paris, specializing in the devil and black magic. In the eleventh century, travel from France to Iceland was tricky, so Saemundur did a deal with the devil, who promised to take the form of a seal and give him a lift home. Saemundur hit

Favourite Places - Mokka Kaffi

Reykjavík has plenty of good cafés, but my favourite is Mokka . It’s a few yards up Skólavördustígur (the Skola Street) on the left, in a building that used to be white but is now raspberry red. It is supposedly the oldest café in Reykjavík, founded in 1958 by an Icelander returning to Reykjavík from Naples where he had been studying music. The warmth and friendliness of the place hits you as soon as you walk in, subtly conveyed by the smell of coffee mixed with waffles and strawberry jam, the house speciality. It’s a small café with leather benches, booths and wood-panelled walls under yellow light. These are hung with pictures by Reykjavík artists that rotate monthly: abstracts, photographs, landscapes, all for sale. Often, the artist will be there too, willing to talk about their work. The staff are young, friendly and of course speak perfect English. I have often suggested Mokka as a place to meet my sources. It has a reputation as a hangout for artists, writers and intellectual